Die together or separately? The dilemma of a Canadian’s family trapped in Gaza.

The bombs had barely begun to fall in the Gaza Strip last month when Omar Mansour’s family realized they had a crucial question to resolve: Would it be better to face death together or separately?

A day after Hamas fighters swept into Israel, massacring at least 1,400 people, taking some 240 hostages and unleashing a war that continues to this day, the parents, brothers and sisters of Mr. Mansour met at one of his houses to discuss the dilemma.

After contacting Mr. Mansour in Vancouver on Oct. 8, relatives passed the phone around the group to debate the merits of moving in with cousins, seeking refuge in UN-run schools or simply staying put.

They have tried both options in the weeks since, but the central question persists as the war intensifies in the besieged enclave where local authorities say at least 9,700 people have died in a full-blown humanitarian crisis.

Running out of options

“So far the discussion is still the same, but we’re really running out of options,” Omar Mansour, a permanent resident of Canada since 2014, said in a telephone interview.

“It is extremely dangerous. So even this option, of dividing us into different groups to go to different places, is not valid at the moment. But there are no other options,” he added.

Two of the sisters of Mr. Mansour, along with her husbands, initially chose to follow the advice of the Israeli authorities and leave their family home in the northern Gaza Strip to settle in the southern part of the enclave. But Mr Mansour said they were injured and decided to return to the family home.

Recently reunited, the group of 11 decided to stay in the northern Gaza Strip as long as they could.

They lasted until 1er November, when the house next door to them was bombed, prompting the family to pack their bags and seek shelter.

Mansour said they sought refuge in the home of one of his sisters, located between the borders of northern Gaza and Gaza City. But bombs ravaged the neighborhood the night they arrived, forcing the group to flee on foot. Mansour said they narrowly escaped.

The group went to the empty home of another relative who was outside the territory when the war broke out.

The nearly two-mile trip took several hours and was full of mistakes, Mr. Mansoor Their relatives said they dodged Israeli drones and struggled to navigate the rubble-strewn streets.

He noted that the journey was a particular ordeal for his parents, who are in their 70s and do not have enough strength to walk after being deprived of sufficient food and water for the past month.

Their current house, designed for two people, now has 11.

Omar Mansour said water remained the most precious resource, adding that at one point the family went without drinking water for almost 10 days.

“They finally got water, but they didn’t shower the whole time,” he said. They can’t flush the toilet. »

Difficulty communicating

A phone call like the one the family shared at the start of the war is increasingly difficult to arrange.

Mr. Mansour said recent attempts to connect with his relatives yielded only a message in Arabic saying the parties could not be reached. And on Sunday evening, Gaza experienced its third total communications blackout since the start of the war. Palestinian communications company Paltel announced that all of its “internet and communications services” were down.

As the conflict enters a new phase, Omar Mansour says he is worried about the future of events.

The Israeli army announced on Sunday evening that it had surrounded Gaza City and split the Gaza Strip in two.

“Today there is northern Gaza and southern Gaza,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters, calling it an “important step” in Israel’s efforts to eradicate Hamas. The group rules Gaza and is classified as a terrorist organization by many countries, including Canada.

Israeli officials have maintained that Hamas operates using a complex network of 500 kilometers of underground tunnels.

Gaza’s Hamas health ministry says more than 9,700 Palestinians have been killed in the territory in nearly a month of war, and countries around the world are increasingly calling for a cease-fire. and other essential supplies in the territory.

Thus, the debate within the Mansour family has returned to square one, as its members wonder whether they should stay or leave and risk dying alone and in fear.

“They will have to spread out on the streets in different places, which means that even the communication between them will be completely interrupted and we could lose people,” explained Omar Mansour. If someone dies, we won’t hear anything. »

With files from the Associated Press.

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